CORONAVIRUS/New batch of AZ arrives; vaccinations at Taipei Main Station extended

The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said Tuesday that a new batch of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine has arrived in Taiwan, and the vaccination service being provided at Taipei Main Station will be further extended to Dec. 29.

The shipment of 738,400 doses arrived at 1:44 p.m. Tuesday on a China Airlines flight from South Korea, and the doses expire on April 30 next year, according to the CECC.

To date, Taiwan has received 8.53 million of the 10 million doses it ordered from AstraZeneca. The country has received 37 million vaccine doses in total, CECC data shows.

Also on Tuesday, the CECC said that the COVID-19 vaccination service being offered at Taipei Main Station will be further extended to Dec. 29.

Three walk-in COVID-19 vaccination sites operate daily from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the station's main hall and its west and east corridors offering free Moderna vaccine shots, according to the CECC.

The extended service will continue to be available to both Taiwanese citizens and foreign nationals, with those vaccinated receiving a small gift, it said.

As of Monday, 35,000 people had received a vaccine shot at the station since the vaccination service there began on Dec. 5, the CECC said.

To date, 79.5 percent of Taiwan's population of 23.39 million have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 65.8 percent have gotten two doses. An additional 64,155 people have received a third booster dose, CECC data shows.

Lee Ping-ing (???), convener of Taiwan's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), said Tuesday that the vaccination rate in Taiwan is not yet "ideal" and urged people to get vaccinated.

With an anticipated surge in arrivals coming to Taiwan for the Lunar New Year holiday, there is a risk variants of the COVID-19 virus could spread into the community, he said.

"Everyone should get vaccinated against COVID-19, not only to protect themselves, but also to protect our society from the spread of the virus," he said.

On the topic of "additional doses" of the vaccine which will be available to immunocompromised people starting Friday, Lee said that this group do not experience as strong an immune response after getting two doses of the vaccine, so the additional dose is to help them build "a basic foundation" of protection.

The ACIP recommends immunocompromised people get an additional dose of the vaccine 28 days after their second dose, and they are free to choose from the vaccine brands available in Taiwan, Lee said.

The booster shot, on the other hand, which is recommended for people aged 18 and above, is to ensure that people can maintain protection against COVID-19 as time passes and new variants appear, Lee said.

People in Taiwan can get a booster shot five months after their second COVID-19 vaccine dose, Lee said.

As to whether immunocompromised people should get a booster on top of an additional dose of the vaccine, Lee said the ACIP has not yet come to a conclusion on the issue.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel